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Who Knows You? How To Network & Collaborate To Win NAHA

Geneva Cowen

Author Geneva Cowen | Artistic Director for Sam Villa

Ever hear of the saying “It’s not what you know – it’s who you know?” Well, in the beauty and fashion editorial world, it’s actually “who knows you” that really matters. It’s your reputation that opens the doors to projects that money can’t even buy. Geneva Cowen, Artistic Director for Sam Villa, is a NAHA Winner for Editorial (Holla #NAHA2014), and it all started 5 years ago when she made a goal to work with Pascal and Jérémie.

As a salon owner and Artistic Director of Sam Villa based in Anchorage, Alaska, Geneva believes big things happen in small places everyday! “I have grown up in Alaska and I have a big family. I was unwilling to move away from them to have a career. I had to find ways to do what I love to do and live the life I wanted for us. I 100% believe you can be artistic, have a creative outlet, do beautiful work and get noticed right where you are. You have to work harder than some, be disciplined and patient. If you choose to live in a remote area you have to come to terms that you have to make a bigger rumble than others to be heard.

Photo shoots are a great way to get your name out there. In order to do that you have to build relationships with the people you look up to and value their taste. If you network and collaborate with the people you respect and earn their respect opportunities will become available. It is important to network with people outside the hairdressing world as well. In the editorial world photographers, stylists, and makeup artists, are the game changers,” states Geneva.

“When we develop a team for a shoot, we only consider those that we feel we can work well with and that have a specific skill set or expertise that will be an asset for the project,” explains Pascal. “We have always wanted to work with Geneva, we met her 5 years ago and since then have worked on many other projects for Redken and Sam Villa. As artists, you need to create space in your world for creative projects where there is not a client to please or product to sell. As one of those projects, we had a bit more creative freedom, yet the logistics were quite complex. We had to have someone that we trusted could pull the hair off, so we invited Geneva to come to Montreal,” he adds.

“When Pascal and Jeremie presented this concept to me as an opportunity I was excited and slightly terrified when they explained what they wanted to achieve. I remember pausing and saying, “I don’t know how to do that.” In reflection it is hilarious because they said in their heavy French accents, “Well, you have 2 weeks, figure it out”…I was not laughing at the time. With the help of my dear friend and Sam Villa Team member, Stephane Legros, we were able to figure it out and felt secure going into a very developed concept feeling confident. You never want to let your team down. They count on you. I have worked with Stephane for 14 years and he is an amazing force that gets my creative self. It is important to cultivate a team that is stronger than you in certain areas so the learning is there for all involved. Whenever Pascal and Jeremie do anything they give 100%. I take every opportunity with them as a gift. When given any opportunity, especially with friends, look at it as a job interview. You are there to get the next job, and by invitation. Photo shoot opportunities are typically about referrals. Someone has vouched for you, make sure their referral is honored. You want to not only represent yourself well, but additionally them. Come prepared, on time, grounded, and ready to work hard. Check your ego at the door. In a shoot environment, the hair is only one element of what is necessary for an amazing image. When asked to make a change, my response is always “no problem.” I could have done exactly what they asked, however they changed their minds. My goal is to understand what they need and communicate if it is possible in the time allowed to transition it. Time is money, especially on a shoot, if the time required to transition the look will take longer than the financial commitment involved, the photographer or art director may make another choice,” she adds.

“Pascal and Jeremie are at a place in their careers where they can ask almost anyone to work them on a creative project. They asked me. I was so lucky because that opportunity landed me the NAHA Editorial Stylist of the Year!” says Geneva.

“Geneva is strong, calm and efficient, and we knew she could do it because she is genuine, hard working and talented. We knew she would put the greater good of the shoot before anything else,” says Pascal.


"The inspiration for the shoot was from images the photographer, Martin Tremblay, saw where models were levitating. So, we decided to turn them upside down and put them in a strange location – China Town. It was strange and wonderful.

Many platform artists are kings of their own castles on stage, it’s all about making their visions a reality, but when you collaborate on an editorial shoot it’s truly a team effort – you have to be humble, work well in a team environment and be willing to state your opinion when asked.” says Pascal.

“The opportunity to work on this project was about friendship and them giving me a shot because they cared about me. They understood my hearts intention, my strength and goals. The first time I met them I told myself I would work with them and they would LOVE me. It’s like when you see the hot guy across the room and decide he is your new boyfriend. It is important to find artists that get you and understand your creative mind. Then the magic can happen organically,” Geneva explains.

“If you don’t set a goal and put things in motion, no one else will ever think to call you. You have to network and let the world know that you are available and willing to work for free, just to be part of the action. It’s a small industry, and at a certain level everyone knows everyone, you need to channel your energy to make an impact,” Pascal adds.

“I believe in our industry. I believe that no one can define who I can become because where I live. I have always believed I can be whatever I decide to be and there are no limitations other than myself. I just have to work a little harder than some to be seen, and that is ok. I am a hard worker,” says Geneva.

The more projects you do, the more opportunities will come your way. If you get paid financially, spiritually or creatively, it’s a win!

Photography: Martin Tremblay
Co Art Direction and Stylist: Pascal & Jeremie
Photography Assistant: Guillaume Lepine
Retouching: Visual Box and Pinch
Model: Cath C. www.foliomontreal.com
Hair: Geneva Cowen
Hair Assistant: Stephane Legros
Makeup: Marie-Laure Larrieu/Joëlle Boucher